Monday, October 22, 2012

Who Moved My Cheese?

I was speaking to a lady who lives next door to the place where I work, and I mentioned that I'd be leaving at the end of the month. She told me about a well-known parable (well-known, I guess, in the States....I'd never heard of it) that's become very popular in the business world, called "Who Moved My Cheese?"

It just makes you think about how important it is to move your cheese once in awhile, or when your cheese moves, to go find a bigger and better piece. I found it online....very true. I'm getting more and more excited about going off to find my new cheese!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rappeports on Four Legs

As I started going through this topic, new critters keep coming to mind. Lila, Ponponit and Lavander, for instance. They were rabbits -- Lavander and Ponponit were the first 2 who didn't really make it very far -- one was dropped and the second just kind of dropped dead. But then we got Lavander who hung around for at least a year -- she was born and bred as a therapy rabbit, but the family that had her couldn't keep her, so she came to live with us. For awhile, she wandered the house, dropping rabbit pellets everywhere (I couldn't stand to see her caged and whoever said that it was easy to house-train rabbits had never met Lavander) but at some point we took a chance and stuck her in the yard where she lived happily, biting the washing machine cord in half whenever she got the chance, but otherwise just enjoying life. I used to love watching people walk by our yard and do a double-take when they caught a glimpse of Lavander sunning herself on the wall.

Unfortunately, at some point, my middle daughter, Yochi, brought home a (boy) rabbit from her youth group "just for a few days" and before we knew what had happened, Lavander was digging tunnels throughout the yard in anticipating of a Blessed Event. I was kind of looking forward to bunnies but my then-husband had a fit...well, truthfully, he had worked hard to create a garden and was upset to find it being destroyed by rabbit tunnels. So the whole crew got shipped off to the local zoo. I think that the descendants are still there today.

Olga Da Polga was another rodent who lived with us for awhile. She was a guina pig. I don't remember where we got her but I liked her...she was a curious little thing who didn't bother anyone, except when she woke me up by her early morning scamperings in her cage. Eventually I put her outside, in a cage that we had there, but within hours she had escaped and the dogs ended her life. I still feel guilty about that.

We had cockatils for awhile too -- Tzippi and Popeye. (Don't ask me where these names came I mentioned, I was barred from naming any animals after Angora). I'm not a big fan of birds, so when they passed on, they weren't replaced, though we have a huge cage that spans the entire back wall of the stairway, complete with a real tree, that is waiting for more birds one day. The next owners of the house can do what they please.

Lola. Ah, Lola. Ariel found her as a half-grown pup, huddled one cold night over a dead cat. She was a gorgeous dog, sweet-tempered and easy-going. Loved books too -- I had to replaced several that she ate at the local library. As well as socks, sandals and, for some reason, my hats. Lola headed down south with us when the 2006 war started (me, Gal, a couple of neighbors and 3 dogs). I found a family in Modi'in which had promised to take her in during the duration of the war, and after the war, they agreed to keep her. Big mistake -- they were a lovely family from New Jersey, just arrived in Israel together with all of their nice New Jersey furnishings. Lola started chomping in short order and I got a call, asking me to come and get her. By that time, we were back and Tzfat and I decided that Lola could take her chances because there was no way that I was going to make the drive back for a dog. The director of the area's animal shelter also called and yelled at me, but I figured that I'd lived up to my responsibilities and if Lola couldn't keep from destroying her new family's home, it was her problem.

I've since heard that her name is now Nala and the nice New Jersey family was too nice to toss her out (which, if it had been up to me, might not have ended up so happily) and she lives in luxury in the center of the country.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Enslaved by....Animals

I've been reading a book that I took out from our local library called "Enslaved by Ducks." Admittedly, I was desperate -- the library closes for the entire month of Tishrei, the Hebrew month when all the holidays occur -- and I grabbed the book at the last minute so that I would have something to do in case I finished my jigsaw puzzle (which I did).

So here I am, reading about some guy who live(ed?)(s?) in rural Michigan, and keeps acquiring animals -- parrots and other birds, ducks, rabbits, geese.....The writing is good but there seems to be something a bit bizarre about a couple that craves more and more animals even while struggling to domesticate some of them, clean up after them and protect them from the elements. I'm also a little awed at the way that he describes the personalities of these animals, very much anthromorphizing (is that a word?) them.

Anyway, I find myself reviewing our history of animals which is relatively restrained compared to this guy, but still, pretty varied.

We started out with one dog, Sparky, who I found on the side of the road outside of Tzfat about 22 years ago (my middle daughter was 1 at the time). Sparky was utterly devoted to me, but never got the kind of attention that she deserved because I was simply overwhelmed with multiple jobs and multiple kids. Sparky went on to have four litters of puppies until the penny finally dropped and I realized that I can protest that our walled-in yard would protect my female dog, but it really won't. Now, whenever a female animal crosses my path, she gets spayed before she knows what happened to her.

While Sparky was still young my neighbor, the "cat lady" of Tzfat, got smart. Instead of asking me for the umpteenth time whether I wanted a cat and receiving the same negative reply, she asked my then-nine-year-old daughter, and next thing I knew, Ariel was schlepping Miranda home.  Miranda was a sweet, lady-like cat. Her claim to fame was that she could pee in the toilet, if the cover had been left up. I couldn't believe it when our babysitter first told me, but sure enough, several times I saw her perched ladylike on the edge of the toilet seat, doing her business righ in the correct spot. In her later years Miranda took to peeing around the house, but it was infrequent and we kept her until a skin condition developed which made her miserable when she was around ten years old. She was the only animal that I've had to put to sleep and it was not a lot of fun.

Next came Angora, a dachshund that I found as a puppy, rummaging for food next to a dumpster. Totally sweet and loving -- I kept saying "she's so gorgeous, I'll have NO trouble finding a home for her" but, in the end, we ended up with 2 dogs, a situation that has maintained itself for 15 years. Angora was originally named "Igora" because we can gotten ahold of the film "Fly Away Home" about a group of orphaned geese who were taught to fly south by a father, daughter and a glider. The kids were watching it endlessly and one of the geese was named "Igor" -- hence "Igora". I must mention that after that, I was never again allowed to name any of our animals.

Two cats arrived in short order, Bagheera and Yoda. They were both males, gorgeous cats, and we enjoyed having them, even though Yoda had a bad habit of slinking off behind the TV set to do his business. Yoda was found dead by a neighbor after about a year and Bagheera....well, of all my animal stories, I feel the most guilty about Bagheera because now that I know better, I realize that he probably had a bladder infection, but at the time, I thought that he was behaving badly, so I banished him and he disappeared.

Lucy. Ah, Lucy. My daughter acquired Lucy as a puppy when she was living at a boarding school. Neither my daughter, Ariel, nor Lucy were very controllable, but you could at least talk to my daughter. Lucy was a nutcase, but totally devoted to my daughter who was, in turn, totally devoted to her. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War Ariel ended up returning to Tzfat because she didn't have anywhere to take Lucy, and the two of them lived through the katyusha attacks with Lucy protecting Ariel from the dirty-old-man-next-door's unwanted attentions. Really protecting her too -- Lucy was a German Shepard and tolerated no monkey business where her mistress was concerned.

Lucy's next life is the kind of story that you find in storybooks. After the war Ariel wanted to go to Tel Aviv but didn't have anything to do with Lucy (her mother was not prepared to take on a crazy dog). Ariel gave Lucy to an Arab worker from Nazareth who was working on the street, but when the guy didn't bring Lucy to visit (as, I guess, he had promised) Ariel became suspicious and finally learned that Lucy had run away. So Ariel headed off to Nazareth, an all-Arab city, to post fliers and search for her. To my utter amazement, a few days later, the Nazareth city vet called and told Ariel that Lucy had been found and they were getting ready to put her to sleep. Ariel raced up to Nazareth, proved that Lucy was licensed (not to mention spayed -- for the short time that I lived with her, I was NOT going to let that crazy animal procreate!) and got Lucy released. So, back to Tzfat they came.

Then came the really strange part of the story. Within days, a notice appeared on the local Tzfat listserve from a resident whose neighbor's German Shepard had died -- the woman was in mourning and the neighbor wanted to know if ANYONE had a German Shepard to give to her. Are you kidding? We were there in a matter of hours and it turns out that a wild German Shepard was exactly what she was looking for -- her whole house was upside down, with (at least) two other coo-koo dogs, so what's one more? In fact, she told me that it was too bad that Lucy had been spayed....that a dog like that should have puppies. Ha! I did go to visit them once, when Ariel said that she'd had a dream about Lucy and asked me to go and check up on her. Lucy hadn't changed a bit -- I couldn't even take a picture of her because she was so hyper-active and wouldn't stay still for a second, even though her new owner tried to hold her. But she was obviously living the life of Riley -- plump and sleek with shiny fur and plenty of room to run around.

Next post: Lenny, Joey, Lavander, Pomponit and Lila, Louie, the-bottle-fed kitten whose name I forget, Lola, Jenny, Mica, Juliette, Garfield....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This 'n That

Soldier-son headed back to base this morning. It's always difficult to see him go, but after our discussion about what he actually does on base, I don't feel as sorry for him as I used to -- he takes shifts watching the computer to watch for any breaks or irregularities in the fence that separates much of the West Bank from much of Israel. If anything happens, he alerts the nearest patrol which goes to check it out, but for most of the time he can read, play his guitar, do stuff on the Internet, etc. He's a true Renaissance Man (he's the one who wants to do DNA studies after the army, and after a hoped-for trip to New Zealand).

Speaking of New Zealand, my cousins Geoff and Jenny are back in Israel after close to a year of travels but they'll actually be heading back to NZ in November and will be traveling around with other mutual cousins, Their apt that they bought in Tzfat is almost built and soon they'll be settled here. These are people that I didn't even know existed five years ago but once the Jewish Genealogy website introduced us, it has seemed like we've always known each other.

Geoff has succeeded in tracing back a good portion of our family tree. He's traced back one ancestor to early 18th century England, meaning that this man was probably one of the first Jews to return to England after Cromwell invited the Jews to return (they had been expelled in the 13th century). Most returnees were from Amsterdam so, as my brother (who's married to a Dutch lady) noted, we're kind of Dutch. Must explain my nervousness about money issues.

Another relative that Geoff traced back was a bit of a scoundral -- he was convicted of stealing some shirts in London in the 1850s and shipped off to Australia on a convict ship. Geoff has actually managed to find some of his descendants from Australia (the guy married a second time in australia -- never got a divorce from wife #1 either) and one of them now lives on the Golan Heights!

The holidays are officially over and my quest for a new professional life has begun. I'm convinced that I can find interesting and meaningful work that allows me to use my skills and knowledge and, I hope, just enjoy working. I have so many ideas of things that I'd like to try. For one thing, I'm looking forward to trying the online teaching -- I'm supposed to begin in early November, after the course finishes. The concept is perfect -- to teach about Judaism in an interactive and engaging way. For anyone who suffered through Hebrew school, like I did, the idea that kids can learn more than I ever did while actually enjoying the process provides a glimmer of hope for Jewish education. I'm a bit nervous about staying up until 2:30a.m. to teach on American time, but it's worth trying and, I think, will be fun for both me and the kids.

I'd also like to make my guestroom more active. As it is, people just stumble onto me through hook or crook -- I want to try to actually market the guestroom properly. I've listed as a Safed Guesthouse with Trip Advisor  and hope to market the room that way. One of the most frustrating parts of this guestroom is that when my kids are home, the family needs the room so I can only rent out on one Shabbat out of two, pretty much, and almost never on the holidays, and that's when everyone wants to come. And, of course, there's the matter of the critters -- I have to be sure that people know about the animals before they come -- my guest room isn't a solution for anyone who's scared or allergic to animals (even the kitty -- to my surprise, there are people who are scared of a small cat).

I've also been spending some time taking photos of Tzfat and am thinking of selling post cards. No one else around here has postcards for sale, so, why not? Aside from the fact that my idea of photography is to let the camera do my work for me.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Simhat Torah 2012

Gave my son gas money for the car, so he was in a good enough mood to promise to leave his camera (his sister's camera which he has taken over) at the house for a few weeks when he  goes back to his army base. Maybe I'll finally have a few pictures to share.

This kid amazes me. We've always known that he has more than the average amount of marbles clicking around in his cerebral area (his siblings call him the family genius) but I'm still blown away when he casually lets drop a few tidbits about what he's doing. For instance, we were talking about the fact that a lot of universities now offer online classes, and he said "oh yes, I've taken a couple of MIT courses online."  Huh? MIT? My kid?

And a few months ago, my brother was here with his family -- my brother now teaches at a yeshiva, but years ago he studied chemical engineering and racked up a PhD in the subject (my brothers are all pretty good in the sciences -- not like their sister who stayed away from anything that even smelled of math and science). Anyway, I happened to walk in on a conversation between the two of them where they were discussing recent advances in the study of DNA. Good grief. 

Nice holiday at the Rappeports. Last night was just me and the kids but my son and daughter did the cooking, so I was off duty (stir-fry -- half with tofu and half with chicken). They also made an onion soup and I happened to see the amount of (olive) oil that was used, which was about 4x the amount that I would have used. But....I kept my mouth closed, and sure enough, the soup was delicious.

However, I woke up in the middle of the night with a massive stomach ache and diarrhea
and I suspect that it was the oil -- I'm not used to that kind of fat in my diet any more. All day I was kind of listless, but managed to put together the BBQ for the daytime meal (sons did the actual grilling). Only now, 10:00p.m., has my appetite returned. (I did manage to eat some of the BBQ which was wonderful...too bad that I just didn't have much of an appetite).

Out on the main street the municipality and various yeshivas are celebrating the end of Simhat Torah with a second round of hakafot -- dancing with the Torah -- this time, because the holiday has finished, with music. I don't have any desire to go out and mill around with everyone but I can hear everything from here.
Second round of Hakafot in Tzfat - picture from FB post of Gabi, Livnot U'Lehibanot

And that's Simhat Torah 2012 from Tzfat! Now, on to the real world.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

You Know You're in Israel During Succot When...

...when the police stop you for a routine traffic check, and send you on your way with a cheery "chag samayach" -- "Happy Holiday!"

... When the country's capital municipality teams up with the company running the light rail line and builds succas at various stations along the line "for the convenience of riders who need a succa."

... when the public radio station plays "Shlomit Bonah Succa" -- "Shlomit Builds Her Succa" as part of their regularly scheduled playlist.

... When Chabad's portable succa-mobiles fill the roads on their way to encourage holiday travelers to fulfill the commandments of the holiday (though I hear that you can see them all over New York too)

... When you wake up in the morning to the sounds of the synagogue down the street having a musical Hallel (holiday prayer service) on their porch.

... When you see non-Jewish tourists walking around with more than their usual air of bewilderment at bumping into little booths along the sidewalks and bumping into men rushing around holding palm branches and lemons.

... When the restaurants serve customers outside in flimsy structures.

... When the entire municipality and all government services just close down for a week.

... When the challenge of finding fresh fruits and vegetables becomes even more, um, challenging.

... When absolutely no one is prepared to make any kind of change, decision, or move because they'll do it "after the chaggim."

... When the threat of rain -- even light showers -- terrorizes an entire country. 

It's been a low-key week here with my kids coming in and out according to their schedules. The new deck made succa-building relatively easy, though the plastic covering over the bamboo had to be removed which necessitated calling in someone to help.

 Daughter #2 is now a vegan so our meal plan has included more vegan dishes and some completely vegan meals -- challenging, but OK with me. It makes our house a popular house for home hospitality for vegetarians. Son #2 finally got back from the army -- it's been a month since he's been home -- and he'll be here for the entire week, which is nice. Son #1 and daughter-in-law divide their meal plans between us and the machatunim (her parents) -- it was easier when the in-laws lived 10 minutes away, but it's still nothing to complain about since the walk is now about 1/2 an hour.

Last night is tomorrow night -- daughter is doing the cooking for dinner, she says, with a BBQ lunch on Monday, and that will end the season. The holiday, Simhat Torah, is celebrated with dancing with the Torah scrolls in synagogues. Here in Tzfat there's a women's group that often
organizes a women's Simhat Torah celebration (since Orthodox synagogues don't allow mixed dancing and most don't allow women to hold the Torah scrolls). I hope that they'll be doing it this year because it's an amazingly meaningful celebration and I love it.

What am I looking forward to most post-holidays? Aside from youngest daughter's return to school? A break from the endless shopping and the opportunity to do some serious job-hunting. It's time to make a move, and though I'm nervous, I'm also excited about the prospects and the opportunities to expand. I'm grateful that I'll be leaving with a good relationship with present employer. I have already been doing some training for one very interesting project, teaching Judaism and Hebrew online, and my first on-line classes will begin in November, so I'm keyed up for that to start. Will just have to take it easy and see what else comes up.

Time to go make the list for the final shopping.